Money Matters
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Nursery Fees - Advice Requested

Mid-year, in our home school community, our director stepped down and in doing so, asked me to take on organizing the community's nursery for the remainder of the year and into next year. The "school year" runs 24 weeks and meets only once per week. So, 12 weeks over two semesters. There are two sessions per Monday - each three hours.

Each session requires that a minimum of two people "staff" the nursery. If one is an older teen, than the second person must be an adult. The nursery ages are infant through three-years-old. There can be anywhere from 1-2 or as many as 8 kiddos in the nursery sessions at any time.

In the early spring, the out-going director raised the nursery fees for the second semester. They went from $60 per child per semester to $80 per child per semester. Several parents balked. Given the current set-up, these two nursery workers work for 36 hours per semester and if there are only 3 kids in the nursery, they each make an hourly wage of $3.33! We also offer a weekly drop-off fee of $7 per child for people who don't want to commit to sending their kid to nursery every Monday. Other communities have a drop off fee of $11 per child.

I am communicating with other communities in our program who also have nurseries and am learning how low our nursery costs are compared to them. One community pays $120 per child per semester. Don't get me wrong, as a mom who has a nursery kiddo, I love the low costs, but it's just not fair to the workers to have them making such a pittance when they could be doing other things with their time.

What's even harder is that the same parents that want low costs also want "curriculum" done for their kids like letters, numbers, shapes, and colors. It's extra work above and beyond the typical duties of baby sitting. I am fine providing the extra work for the kids, but I think the workers ought to be compensated for it.

How would you navigate this? And, do you have any great ideas for sliding scales of nursery worker wages based on number of kids?

Thanks.


Re: Nursery Fees - Advice Requested

  • Admittedly, daycare and child expenses are not areas I have any experience in.  But I see where you are coming from.  On the one hand, rates were just raised and some people raised a stink about it.  But, on the other hand, the new fee is still too low and also quite a bit below similar services.

    It's hard to be the new person to the position coming in and saying, "Fees are being raised again."  With that said, if you make the decision that is what needs to be done, these are the points I would make:

    • Prepare a simple report with the research you've done on comparable services and their rates in nearby areas.
    • Similar to what you did in your post in terms of wages, focus on what parent's are paying per hour instead of on the total cost.  For example, if the new fee is $110/semester for 36 hours of babysitting, that comes out to parents paying $3.06/hour.  Sounds really cheap to me!
    • If $110/semester seems like a fair price to also add in basic curriculum, sweeten the blow that this will be a new benefit added.

    I'm not sure I'm understanding how the nursery workers are paid.  Are they paid based on the number of children they are watching each week?  With the exception of "drop offs", don't the parents pay the same amount, whether they miss a week or not?  If so, it seems like it would be known at the beginning of each semester the "base" amount being collected and how much that will break out per nursery worker, per week.  Then part/all of the drop-off fees would be the extra gravy for them.

    If they are just paid a set amount per hour, that could be set up like:

    • 1-4 children per day, $X/hour
    • 5+ children per day, $Y/hour
  • abrewer5abrewer5
    Fourth Anniversary 100 Love Its 100 Comments Name Dropper
    member

    I have no experience in this area at all, but you may want to try doing a gradual increase to lessen the blow. Perhaps suggest a rate increase of 20% (random number) a month until you get to the full new rate.

    What a crappy position to be in. I can see why parents are upset they're basically doing highway robbery compared to the other places. LOL I wouldn't want to pay a fair rate either.  

  • Can anybody honestly ever say they're happy when rates go up?

    Beyond that, i agree with the above.  You've already called other groups.  Prepare something showing that at other places they'd be paying more.
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  • hoffsehoffse
    Sixth Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its Name Dropper
    member
    Sorry, but the parents need to pony up.  They are paying WAAAAAAY less than they would pay a single pre-teen to babysit for that amount of time - and they get two caregivers (at least one who is an actual adult) rather than just one.  Even with reduced fees for multiple kids, it's an insanely good deal.

    Explain what a private sitter would cost them and that they are still getting a good deal even with the fee increase.  Then parents can either pay or not participate.
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  • Thanks. The workers get paid either per week (with the weekly drop off rate), which they have to divide 50/50. Or, they get paid once per semester for the families that pay ahead of time per child, which they also divide 50/50. Regardless, parents are getting a steal on child care.

    Our nursery numbers change drastically. Some families start every week and then stop because their kids cannot handle the separation from mom. Or, some families start with a kid mid-year in nursery who wasn't there for the first 12 weeks. Families are always leaving and entering the community as their educational needs change. All the communities cap at 40 families. Our community has always been a large one, but this year many families decided not to return next fall. So, we're in flux. It's like trying to hit a moving target.

    I think I need to set a base pay. The workers shall not get less than $x and go from there on nursery fees. The more kids we have the lower rates will be. But some parents, just won't do nursery.

    It is tough to go into all the particulars here, but there is a lot of parent involvement in this community school day. And parents are relied on heavily, so it goes against the grain to just up the prices again.

    The other issue is that if I have a parent help with nursery who also has a nursery-aged child, then she will want her kid in there for free of charge, which means the other worker makes no money off her child and gets even less than the $3.33!

    Ugh. Why did I say "yes" to this role??? Kicking myself...

  • Ending nursery is also an option.  Maybe not a popular one, but an option.  I can't believe you find someone willing to do it for $3.33/hr.  Especially an adult.
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  • smerkasmerka
    Ancient Membership 250 Love Its 500 Comments Name Dropper
    member
    I'm wondering how you pay these people.  Is it cash? Do you give them a W2?  Why aren't they paid minimum wage?  I get that it is a homeschool thing but is this nursery at a church or someone's house or somewhere else? It feels like there is a lot of liability issues here.
  • That's really inexpensive for child care.  There's time involved with caring for the children but also a lot of planning time and supply costs if you are adding a curriculum.  I would considering revamping the whole program and make sure the costs are reasonable.  You should not be losing money to provide this program.  The parents need a reality check.  Would they do this if they were the ones to lose money?  
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    short+sassy
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